DEEP: Notice to Lobstermen ASMFC Public Hearing/V-Notch Plan Overview

Notice To Lobstermen

ASMFC Public Hearing / V-Notch Plan Overview

The DEP Marine Fisheries Division is hosting a public hearing / public informational meeting on September 25, 2006. The first topic of the evening is a public hearing of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to hear public comment on the Public Information Document for Amendment 5 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for American Lobster. The second topic of the evening is an informational meeting to provide details and answers to questions related to the plan for the lobster v-notch conservation program that is expected to begin later this year. The hearing / meeting will be held at:

   7:00 PM, Monday, September 25, 2006
   DEP Marine Headquarters (Boating Ed. Building)
   333 Ferry Rd (I-95, Exit 70, Rt. 156 southbound)
   Old Lyme, CT 06371  

ASMFC Public Hearing
The Amendment 5 Public Information Document (PID) was developed to address several issues raised by the 2005 lobster stock assessment, peer review, and Board members to improve lobster management. These issues include:

  • changes to the boundaries for the Lobster Conservation Management Areas
  • uniform application of a V-notch definition and maximum size restrictions across all Lobster Conservation Management Areas (LCMAs)
  • more uniformity of minimum sizes across LCMAs
  • restrictions on permits to control effort
  • amending the non-trap sector daily allowances
  • adding a new objective to the management plan promoting more consistent regulations across all LCMAs.

As the first step in the development of an amendment, the PID presents a broad overview of the issues facing American lobster resource, as well as a range of potential management measures affecting the stock and dependent fisheries. It provides the public with the opportunity to identify major issues and alternatives relative to the management of lobster.

Following the initial phase of information-gathering and public comment, the Commission will evaluate potential management alternatives and develop a draft amendment with management options identified for public review. Following that review and public comment, the Commission will specify the management measures to be included in the new amendment. A tentative schedule for the completion of the amendment is included in the PID.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the PID by attending public hearings or providing written comments. Copies of the PID can be obtained by contacting the Commission at 202-289-6400 or via the Commission’s website at www.asmfc.org under Breaking News. Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM September 27, 2006 and should be forwarded to Toni Kerns, Senior Fisheries Management Plan Coordinator. Comments can be mailed to 1444 'Eye' Street, NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005; faxed to 202-289-6051 or emailed to tkerns@asmfc.org (subject line: Amendment 5 PID). For more information, please contact Toni Kerns at 202-289-6400.

V-Notch Program Overview
The Department will also provide details of, and answer questions about, a soon-to-be implemented lobster v-notch conservation program. The intent of this program is to enhance the prospects for lobster stock recovery in Long Island Sound and minimize the possibility or severity of other management measures that might be implemented by the ASMFC to rebuild lobster stock abundance and manage the fishery.

Public Act 06-187 allocated $1.0M to fund a v-notch-based lobster restoration program, contingent on the approval of the program plan by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Over the summer, the legislatively mandated "Lobster Restoration Advisory Committee (LRAC)" developed the program plan. The committee is composed of Connecticut’s three commissioners of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, three officers of commercial lobstermen's associations, representatives of the Bridgeport Vocational Aquaculture High School, the Sound School in New Haven and the Vocational Technical High School in Groton, the executive director of the Connecticut Seafood Council and representatives of the Departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture. On August 14, 2006, the ASMFC voted to approve the plan. Various aspects of the plan include:

Goals

  • Stock rebuilding based on the v-notching and release of female lobsters.
  • V-notching will be the principal method of conservation in LMA 6.

Conservation Objectives

  • Reduce the fishing mortality rate.
  • Leaves female lobsters in population and increases spawning stock biomass.
  • Improves the size and age structure of the female lobster population in LMA 6.

Operational Objectives

  • Develops lobster biology educational curriculum and utilizes student observers to notch mature female lobsters and collect data.
  • Introduces students to marine-based career choices by working with lobstermen, the DEP and other associated research scientists.
  • Compensates lobstermen still suffering from the die-off for their contribution to stock rebuilding.

Approach

  • Integrates students from vocational aquaculture schools (and a technical high school with an aquaculture program) with resource recovery efforts.
  • Female lobsters will be notched during periods when the bottom water temperature is less than or equal to 20 degrees centigrade (approximately 68° F) to minimize temperature-induced stress. Consideration will be given to notching eggbearing lobsters if the DEP is satisfied that mortality and/or stressful conditions will not jeopardize those lobsters or the hatching of their eggs.
  • Lobstermen will be compensated for all lobsters that are v-notched and released.
  • Accountability and verification will be based on counting recaptured notched animals during fishery independent and dependent sampling trips of the DEP and the schools.
  • "Zero tolerance" is proposed as a protective definition for LMA 6 to ensure that the conservation value of notched lobsters (and the effectiveness of the Connecticut taxpayer's dollars) is maximized.

Conservation Value of the Program

  • The numbers of lobsters notched and released may potentially be used to defer future or rescind recent management measures (gauge increases).
  • Requests for conservation equivalency will be based on credit for lobsters notched.
  • Validation of the effectiveness of the program will be corroborated using the exploitation rate before and after v-notching.

(N06-18)